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Kellen Moore’s Playcalling has Been a Major Issue

The Dallas Cowboys parted ways with long-time Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan shortly after the 2018 season. To replace him, they stayed within the organization and promoted Kellen Moore who spent a year as the Quarterbacks Coach. The idea was to get a fresh face in the building and open up an often predictable offense and showcase more of the abilities of Dak Prescott and find news ways to get the ball to All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott.

Moore definitely came into his new job with high expectations and an excitement to get to work with such a talented group of players, as he expressed when talking about the roster before the season.

“I think the beauty of our current roster is we have a lot of versatility,” Moore said. “We have guys that can kind of line up in a lot of different places. Hopefully, we can be multiple and present things in different ways, and at the end of the day, we still have our foundation and our philosophy. You can run similar plays just out of a lot of different looks”.

The interesting word in this quote is philosophy. It’s been pretty clear since 2016 that the best formula for success when it comes to the Cowboys is establishing Elliott and playing ball control behind their offensive line. However, doing it for a game or two is one thing, but it’s an entirely different thing to do it consistently.

Things couldn’t have started any better in the first three games for Moore in his first season as OC. Prescott had over 900 yards and nine touchdowns, Elliott was off to the best three-game start of his career, the Cowboys were averaging over 32 points per game, and most importantly the team was 3-0. However, things didn’t continue to go so smoothly.

In Week 10 vs the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys had a 1st and 10 at the 19-yard line trailing 28-24 with 1:57 left in the fourth quarter. After Prescott completed an eight-yard pass to Amari Cooper the Cowboys faced a 2nd and 2. They ran the ball with Elliott for no gain. On 3rd and 2 they ran him again, this time for a three-yard loss. On 4th and 5, Moore designed a play for Elliott as the primary receiver out of the backfield. The pass was incomplete and the Cowboys lost.

Normally with only two yards to gain to move the chains, you run Elliott more times than not. However, Prescott had driven the Cowboys from the six-yard line all the way to the red zone, accounting for every yard except for a four-yard carry from Elliott. Also, Cooper and Randall Cobb were both over 100 yards receiving. There was no excuse for Moore taking the ball out of Prescott’s hands in this particular situation.

Of the Cowboys two three-game losing streaks this season the most recent was without question the most frustrating when it comes to Moore and his play-calling abilities. In Week 12 vs the New England Patriots, the Cowboys established Elliott early against the NFL’s top defensive unit. He had 61 yards on 15 carries in the first half. The second half, however, was a completely different story. Moore only called Elliott’s number six times in the final 30 minutes of play. Mind you, the Cowboys were only down 10-6 at halftime. There was no reason to abandon the run that early in a four-point game.

A week later vs the Buffalo Bills saw Elliott get off to a fast start once again. Against a top-three defense, he had 56 yards on 10 carries in the first half. Unfortunately, like the week before, Moore wouldn’t utilize Elliott in the second half. The Cowboy’s workhouse back only had two carries for 15 yards after halftime. Moore instead decided to air it out with Prescott who ended up with 49 pass attempts, a number he should never see with Elliott in the same backfield. Unwise approach from Moore in the second half of this one and the Cowboys eventually lost 26-15.

Having lost the previous two games the Cowboys rolled into the Windy City to face the Chicago Bears. Elliott, for the third consecutive game, started fast carrying the football eight times on a 17 play drive that took almost nine minutes off the clock and put the Cowboys ahead 7-0. Unfortunately, Moore didn’t stick to this formula and only called 11 running plays for Elliott for the rest of the game, as opposed to 43 passes for Prescott. That means for the final 51 minutes Elliott only had 11 carries which is unacceptable.

This past Sunday vs the Philadelphia Eagles was the most glaring example of poor play-calling from Moore in my opinion. On the opening drive of the second half, the Cowboys methodically moved the ball down the field looking to take the lead in a 10-6 ball game. Elliott ran the ball for eight yards on first down setting up a 2nd and 2 from the Eagles 26-yard line. After Tony Pollard was stopped for a one-yard gain the next play was truly mind-blowing. Moore called an option play on 3rd and 1. Not only that, he ran it to the short side of the field. Pollard would fumble and all the momentum the Cowboys had built was gone.

The other head-scratcher came on the Cowboys final offensive play. On 4th and 8 from the Eagles 23, the Cowboys were down 17-9 and looking to force overtime. Moore called an offensive package that didn’t include Cooper or Cobb. So on the most important play of the season, you take out your number one receiver and your biggest threat in the slot? Unbelievable.

As the Cowboys desperately look to make the playoffs next week one thing is pretty much a formality, Head Coach Jason Garrett will be gone after this season. Now, Kellen Moore is also someone the organization has to take a look at. I just highlighted four very winnable games for the Cowboys that they, unfortunately, suffered defeat in. A huge factor in each loss was play-calling. The Cowboys could possibly be 11-4 right now instead of 7-8 and on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. If Moore does return in 2020 he will have to be a lot better in sticking to what is working in a particular game and improve his situational play-calling.

What do you think?

Matthew Lenix

Written by Matthew Lenix

I write dope stuff about the Dallas Cowboys and what not.

Comments

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  1. In my opinion the cowboys problem is Dac Prescott, he just isn’t as good as everyone wants to believe he is, he has not shown to be a a QB that handles pressure as well as can be seen in must make downs and throwing the ball, he just is not consistent. I watched him make bad throw bad throws consistently more often than not when it counts. Kellen should suit up and QB!

  2. Hey, great article. You were dead on with your assessment of Kellan Moore’s play calling. At the beginning of the season, I had high hopes the third string QB could work some magic for the offense. I had hoped he would have a different view of how to utilize a talented offense. Unfortunately at the end of the season, Dennis Green was right, “He is who I thought he was!” Moore is the third string QB who was always overwhelmed.

  3. The playcalling has definitely been hit or miss (with some painful misses). Is it Garret taking over aspects during key situations or Moore making young coach mistakes? Who’s to say.

    But what is certain, is that Dak and the WRs have missed so many open opportunities over the last few weeks. That’s execution, not scheming/playcalling.

  4. As Jerry continues to profit on the dessicated husk of what was once a proud franchise, we fans will watch as he wrings his hands in disbelief as his next puppet rises the team to the same level of mediocrity. This team has obviously felt entitled to be given a playoff berth, and for whatever reason, Jerry continues to pay big bucks for mediocre results. Therefore folks, prepare yourself for…gasp…more of the same next year.

  5. You are most definitely right.!!! K. Moore needs to do better. In time he can fix this!!! But u watch the play calling it’s not that bad, to be honest it’s winnable… but Dak and his ball placement is the major issue. A lot of these situations the cowboys DONT have to be in:. Everyone is blaming Garrett, I’m seeing Moore’s name now.. but Dak should be looked at too.. Dak is wasting the route running abilities of both receivers.. he’s needs to be more accurate and decisive!!!! I’d move on

  6. I believe there are many other factors to weigh in here. First, you got to catch the ball to advance on a pass play. Secondly, i cant name the number of critical penalties which came following a huge offensive play. And lets not forget the inept special teams play which cost us points and momemtum in crucial situations. Oh, i almost forgot, our defense missed so many basic tackles on long stoppable plays. Lastly, with the exception of the Rams and first Eagle game. Where was the intensity and fire? Other than that. We can armchair Kellen all day.

  7. I appreciate everyone’s input. Kellen Moore has the potential to be a really good play caller one he learns to stick to what’s working and be better situationally.

    • Matthew, one thing that wasn’t mentioned which is puzzling to me. The offense in the beginning of the season featured a ton of pre snap motion, end arounds, jet sweeps, receivers lining up in bunch formations, etc.. In other words, a lot more creativity than Linehan ever used. What happened to all of the pre snap motion, etc.. as the season wore on? What made this offense very unpredictable and potent early on was completely forgotten in several games this season. I can’t help but think that Garrett had a lot more say in numerous games and key situations as the year went on. The bigger the game and the bigger the opponent, especially on the road, the more conservative they became. Garrett just can’t help himself. I think all the pre snap motion, bunch formations, etc.. became way too much for him even though it was working and was creative. Makes no sense to abandon what was working so well for you.

  8. Hold on…Dak hasn’t been half -bad. Moore deserved some slack for being a rookie playcaller, even though his playcalling and pre snap movement has fallen off dramatically.
    THE issue is the “philosophy” of theirs that ‘we will run it when we want to and YOU can’t stop us.’ And THAT, sports fans…is Garrett.

  9. Zeke, DeMarcus, and even Amari are tapping out of games. Amari has obvious injuries to give him an out. How many people said after the Rams win “that looks like like the old Zeke”?

    I didn’t want to resign Zeke to begin with. His season has proved you don’t pay big money to RBs on a 2nd contract. Kellen has his faults, but to blame him for Zeke tapping out is absurd.

    The gossip around Dallas is Amari was pulled for poor production during the game by Garret and Lal. The same thing that happened to Chidobe. Imagine that, it only took ten years for Garret to hold players accountable for poor play. See Maher.

    • Amen. Couldn’t agree more. No accountability whatsoever. Antwan Woods gets arrested and is starting the next game. Players on this team have no fear of not starting/playing and it’s been this way for years. When Jimmy was winning 2 Super Bowls with Dallas guys were terrified of losing their jobs. No one was comfortable. That’s what this team needs more than anything, even more than scheme change, etc. As far as Zeke signing him to a second contract, especially when you didn’t have to for another year or two, is absurd. You have more money tied up on your offensive line than any other team, and it’s not even close, that spending 14 million a year on a back on his 2nd contract is so silly. You could draft a running back in the mid rounds and signed an affordable free agent and you would have been more than fine. As far as D Law is concerned, he absolutely lost some of that edge and relentlessness that he played with the previous 2 years. There were several games where he went up against a backup right tackle and he was nowhere to be found. Jordan Lewis has one less sack than D Law to put things into perspective.

  10. Moore is a 1st year coordinator he’s gonna make some mistakes,I saw a positive direction for this offense,him and Kitna has Dak progressing.

  11. With Moore’s questionable play calling at times, that so reflects on Garrett because he’s the one to make changes to Moore’s directions or what Moore will emphasize. With that said and the possibilities of us being 11-4 can be greatly questioned because Prescott could have screwed up or our O line not blocked as both have done multiple times this season having a big impact on our losing games we could have won. I CAN BARELY WATCH SOME OF OUR GAMES I’m so frustrated being a fan since our 1960 beginnings!!!!

  12. Any blame that is laid at Moore’s feet can also be laid at Jerry’s feet. Jerry has always been known as an owner that likes to think he has caught lightning in a bottle. Moore was built up as some kind of offensive wunderkind, and it just has not worked out that way. It was a huge risk handing the keys of such an important part of this team’s success to such a young and inexperienced coach and the gamble has not paid off. I don’t see hiw he continues as OC next year especially with a new HC coming in. There is zero chance the new guy wants his success in the hands of a young guy like Moore. I can imagine this being a sticking point with Jones not wanting to give up on who he sees as the next Sean Payton or Sean Mcvay.

  13. Wow I watched all of their games and the biggest things I saw was QB play and accuracy and a lack of catching balls there were often a little off but very catchable. And of course just plain old drops. As for play calling remember Dak can and often does audible to a different play so while a run may be called and a pass as an audible if Dak changes it and then misses who’s fault is it actually. The coaching or the QB??

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